FL Sen: Here’s a Question for Marco Rubio – Why Does Lobbyist Amber Stoner’s Name Appear At Least 10 Times on Your Credit Card Statements?
Screenshot from a  photo-sharing website with the account name amberstoner, from Political Carnival

Screenshot from a photo-sharing website with the account name amberstoner, from Political Carnival

There will be a debate among the candidates in the Florida U.S. Senate race tomorrow night, Oct. 6, and our friends and colleagues over at the Political Carnival have submitted a question for the frontrunner, the GOP-tea bagger candidate, Marco Rubio:

Just what is going on here between you and health-care lobbyist Amber Stoner?

First of all, for non-Floridians just now tuning in, Marco Rubio is the former state House speaker about whom Sarah Palin said this spring, “I love Marco Rubio. Marco keep up the good work. Call me.” Since then, he’s driven his chief rival, Gov. Charlie Crist, out of the Republican Party — Crist is now challenging him as an independent. In every recent poll, Rubio leads Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek by double digits.

Despite his sunny smile and boyish demeanor, however, Rubio is allegedly just another corrupt conservative. According to CREW, the nonpartisan ethics watchdog group that recently filed a complaint alleging that Delaware GOP tea bagger candidate Christine O’Donnell embezzled campaign donations, Rubio is under investigation by federal authorities:

Mr. Rubio is currently implicated in a federal criminal investigation for the misuse of Florida Republican Party credit cards during his time as speaker. Specifically, the IRS is examining records to determine if Mr. Rubio and other party leaders personally benefitted from the credit card scheme. Legally, party credit cards can only be used for political activities, but Mr. Rubio and his staff charged many seemingly personal expenses on the cards including car repairs, and grocery purchases. Mr. Rubio’s chief of staff racked up thousands of dollars in expenses on behalf of Mr. Rubio on his card including dinners and a Rubio family trip to a Georgia resort.

Mr. Rubio also admitted he double-billed both the Republican Party and state taxpayers for eight flights totaling about $3,000 in 2007…

Furthermore, Mr. Rubio seems to have misused two political committees for personal gain. Mr. Rubio’s committee likely violated state law by failing to disclose $34,000 worth of expenses in 2003 and 2004 including a $7,000 payment to Mr. Rubio. While other Floridian candidates tend to itemize travel expenses, Mr. Rubio billed more than $51,000 in unidentified travel expenses to his committee. The same committee paid $5,700 to his wife, who is listed as its treasurer. Another Rubio political committee listed $14,000 in payments to family members, at least one of whom had a non-existent address.

Rubio was forced to repay a portion of the credit card bills, but because of these and other serious charges — including allegations that Rubio “inserted earmarks into the state budget for his personal gain” — CREW named Rubio one of its “Crooked Candidates of 2010.”

Based on publicly available records, the lobbyist Amber Stoner’s name appeared on Rubio’s credit card statements at least 10 times in 2007, his first year as House speaker:

  • 2007-02-14 Tallahasee Delta (Unknown/Atlanta/Tallahasee)
  • 2007-02-28 Tallahasee Delta (Miami/Tallahasee)
  • 2007-05-11 Columbia, SC USAirways (Columbia/Charlotte/Tallahasse)
  • 2007-05-15 Atlanta Delta (Tallahasee/Atlanta/Philadelphia)
  • 2007-05-20 Tallahasee Delta (Unused – credit)
  • 2007-05-27 N/A Delta (Tallahasee/Orlando)
  • 2007-05-27 Tallahasee Continental (Tallahasee/Tampa)
  • 2007-05-27 Tallahasee Delta (Orlando/Tallahasee)
  • 2007-05-29 Tallahasee Continental (Tallahasee/Tampa)
  • 2007-07-12 Tallahasee USAirways

So who is Amber Stoner? There is an Amber Stoner listed in the Florida Lobbyist Directory. If this is the same Amber Stoner whose travel Rubio paid for, she is a lobbyist for HCA Healthcare, based in Tallahassee.

HCA Healthcare is a corporate brand with a lot of baggage. According to its Wikipedia page, “Hospital Corporation of America is the largest private operator of health-care facilities in the world.” Yeah, a force of evil — and then there’s company’s troubled history. Its founders were members of the Frist family — the family of heart surgeon Bill Frist, the Bushite Tennessee senator whom Karl Rove installed as majority leader in 2002, after then-Majority Leader Trent Lott disgraced himself by yearning out loud for the America that was lost when segregationist Strom Thurmond was not elected president in 1948 — an America still segregated today where, Lott said, “we wouldn’t have all these problems.” As majority leader, Frist led the GOP’s rubberstamping of the Bush agenda, which ultimately resulted in the collapse of the U.S. economy, among other crises. (In 2005, Frist dodged an investigation into insider trading after he sold all his HCA shares two weeks before the stock value plunged. It was all just a coincidence, we’re sure.)

But wait, there’s more. At some point, HCA merged with Columbia Hospital Corporation to become Columbia/HCA. Columbia Hospital Corporation was founded by Rick Scott, the current Republican candidate for governor of Florida. Back then, Scott was in charge of the company in the late 1990s at the time it perpetrated the largest-ever health-care fraud on the American taxpayers. The fraud was so massive that Scott was forced out of HCA. The company ultimately paid $1.7 billion in settlements (which, no doubt, it passed back its patients in the form of higher fees). The good news is, Scott is trailing Alex Sink, the Democratic candidate for governor, in most polls.

Obviously, there is a lot more digging that needs to be done here, and GottaLaff at the Political Carnival says that a columnist in Florida will be talking to the primary source for the information about the credit card charges and the rest.

In the meantime, during tomorrow night’s debate, let’s hope someone will ask Marco Rubio, the former Florida House speaker, why he paid to fly an HCA Healthcare lobbyist around the state and elsewhere.

4 Responses »

  1. TooBlue October 5, 2010 @ 9:34 pm

    PoliticalCarnival is a snatch and snark site that doesn’t fact check anything. She’s a humorist, not a journalist or even a polished. She was building traffic for a fund raiser and you fell for it. These credit card records were vetted years ago, and neither the herald, st pete times, nor CREW in washington found a thing wrong with the stoner entries. As for Stoner, had TPC bothered to check, she might have learned that Stoner and Rubio go back a long time before she was a lobbyist.

    And also, there are no laws about Florida house members flying lobbyists anywhere they wish. Just not the vice-versa. It does not help us to be spreading meaningless allegations about Rubio. There is plenty of real information out there. This was a non-story. Link traffic builder about nothing at all. (That’s why no real media will touch this. Even those that really dislike Rubio). Be vigilant about facts and sources if your cred matters to you.

    FYI: Sink and scott far too close for comfort. It’s going to come down to turnout. If scott wins, there are very bleck days ahead. Same for Allen West. They have to be stopped.. somehow.

  2. Jon October 6, 2010 @ 7:15 am

    TooBlue: Are you really suggesting that Rubio shouldn’t be asked in the debate tonight to explain why, as speaker of the House, he paid to fly a health-care lobbyists around the country? You say the matter has been vetted, but we certainly checked and I found nothing that indicated Rubio had been asked about this relationship or these trips on the record. If you have sourcing that clears him, please send the links and I’ll update the post.

    I live in California, and Florida politics are often opaque and mysterious to me, but I can tell you that if the speaker of the California Assembly bought 10 or more plane tickets for a lobbyist — especially a lobbyist for a hospital mega-corp with a checkered past — I would want an explanation. It may not be illegal, but it reeks of corruption. He actively campaigns against the health-care reform law, so this cozy relationship with a health-care industry lobbyist certainly appears to suggest some sort of quid pro quo.

    I assume you’re a Democrat and that you live in Florida, so I’m puzzled why you would swat down the suggestion that Marco Rubio — your next senator, unless something dramatic happens — should be asked a question that puts a spotlight on a possibly corrupt relationship with a health-care lobbyist. Seems to me there is no downside to asking him to explain the trips so voters can hear what he has to say and decide if it holds water.The debate tonight offers a perfect opportunity to ask the question and hear his answer.

  3. goatherd October 6, 2010 @ 10:37 am

    Columbia/HCA was discovered to have made a shady, behind the scenes attempt to take over Tampa General Hospital roughly 15 years ago. I think you might find some interesting details if you look into the St. Petersburg Times archives.

    If I recall correctly, “60 Minutes” also did a piece on them around the same time. I lived in Tampa then, by the way.

  4. Mac K October 6, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

    I found more than 17 records in Rubio’s CC statements online of Ms Stoner’s travels. However, even more intriguing is the mystery of her home purchase on Terrace St in Tallahassee. Can find no record of the property with Leon County, its sale, her name on the property record, nothing. It’s just a few minutes from the home Rubio and Rivera owned together too and as I understand it, Ms Stoner once lived in that shared home as well. WHO purchased the home on Terrace?

    As for TPC, I don’t know where”TooBlue” got the idea that the Rubio piece was posted to draw traffic for a fundraiser. Blog posts to TPC change on a rolling daily basis as news becomes pertinent to viewers. There was enough “buzz” out there about the Rubio/Stoner/2nd woman too (Ana G), that the information became timely. As for humor….Daily Show and Colbert use humor too to talk about REAL news….why should online political blogs be any different?

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